Yesterday “electors” affirmed that Joe Biden is our next president. After the votes in all 50 states, Biden addressed the nation. Fortunately, this time the winner of the popular vote also won in the outdated Electoral College.
President-elect Joe Biden declared Monday, hours after the Electoral College made his victory over President Donald Trump official, that “the rule of law, our Constitution and the will of the people prevailed” over Trump’s efforts to undo the results of the election.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame,” Biden said.
In a speech Monday night in Delaware, Biden launched the most direct and detailed defense of his victory yet — and the harshest condemnation of Trump’s flailing efforts to change reality.
He catalogued the failures of Trump’s campaign and his allies in state and federal courts and state legislatures, and recounts that have not substantially changed vote tallies. He called efforts by Trump and his supporters to use the courts to overturn the election result “so extreme we’ve never seen it before.”
“Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort,” Biden said.
Biden’s speech came after the Electoral College had cast 306 votes for Biden and 232 for Trump, cementing Biden’s win. The Electoral College votes will now be sent to Congress to be counted formally next month. Though some House Republicans have indicated they will object to the results in key states, they can do little more than delay the process during a joint session of Congress on January 6. Then, Biden will be inaugurated at noon on January 20.
Aaron Rupar at Vox: Biden’s post-Electoral College speech was a stinging rebuke of Trump.
Over the past six weeks since Election Day, President-elect Joe Biden carried about his business while largely ignoring the circus surrounding President Donald Trump’s incessant lies about election fraud and refusal to concede. That changed a bit on Monday.
Speaking hours after the Electoral College officially voted to confirm his victory over Trump, Biden declared victory. He also criticized the president, whom he portrayed as on the wrong side of the struggle for democracy, for refusing to acknowledge the reality of his defeat.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said. “We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.”
At another point, Biden took an indirect shot at Trump, saying “the flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic, or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.”
Biden addressed the flood of failed lawsuits the Trump campaign has filed since the election and the Supreme Court’s refusal last week to take up a flimsy case that could’ve overturned his victory. He also praised state and local officials on both sides of the aisle for overseeing a fair election while refusing to be “bullied” by Trump.
“In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of elections, those questions are resolved through the legal processes. And that’s precisely what happened here,” he said. “All the counts were confirmed … none of this has stopped baseless claims.”
Later, Biden noted that “respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy,” adding that when Trump won four years ago, “it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes to the joint session of Congress … I did my job.” [….]
Biden, who sounded noticeably hoarse throughout, closed by noting that the joy of his win “is tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling today. Our nation [today] passed a grim milestone: 300,000 deaths due to this Covid virus. My heart goes out to each of you during this dark winter of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Trump is still filled with self-pity and ignoring the desperate situation in the country he is supposed to be leading. Jonathan Swan at Axios: Scoop: Trump’s frenetic, fanciful, bitter final plea.
Right up to Monday’s Electoral College vote, President Trump held the false hope that Republican-controlled state legislatures would replace electors with allies who’d overturn Joe Biden’s win, two people who discussed the matter with him told Axios.
The big picture: Through the past week, the sources said, the president browbeat GOP legislators in multiple states, launched tirades against Republican Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia, vowed to make Fox News “pay” for accurately calling the race, and tested ways to say he didn’t win without acknowledging he had lost.
Behind the scenes: One source who talked to Trump over the weekend said the president continued to insist that there was significant fraud in multiple states, paraphrasing him: “Do you think if the legislatures know this is all true, they would just act to overturn this?'”
There’s more at the link, but who cares? Trump is finished and we won’t have to put up with his childish behavior much longer.
Yesterday was also a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic, as the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine began. Peter Baker at The New York Times: A Day That Settled an Election and Brought Hope for Defeating a Pandemic.
When future historians close the books on the misery of 2020, a grueling year of disease, death, racial strife, street violence, economic collapse and political discord the likes of which have not been seen in the United States in generations, they may look back on Monday, Dec. 14, as a pivotal juncture.
It was on that day that Americans began rolling up their sleeves for a vaccine produced in record time to defeat a virus even as the death toll crossed 300,000. And it was on that day that members of the Electoral College gathered in each of the 50 states to ratify the end of the most polarized election in more than a century.
None of that erases the enormous damage of the past 12 months, nor does it mean there will not be pain and protest to come. Many Americans will get sick and die in the months before the vaccine is universally available. Many Americans will remain aggrieved by the result of an election they wish had gone the other way. It is still an era of hardship and division. But after so much uncertainty, after so much doubt, the way forward appears clearer at least in two major respects….
The day played out in a remarkable fashion as television viewers watched images of health care workers receiving lifesaving injections juxtaposed with live shots from state capitals around the country showing electors casting votes formally confirming the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris.
It was the definitiveness of both developments that stood out after months of political, medical and economic turmoil: At last, Americans can look ahead to the day when they will be immunized from the Covid-19 virus even if takes until spring. And now they know despite all the postelection noise from the White House and its allies who will be president on Jan. 20.
Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that the Trump administration refused to order more vaccines from Pfizer in November. Mediaite: Former FDA Director Scott Gottlieb: Trump Administration Declined More Pfizer Vaccines as Recently as November.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, now on the board of Pfizer, said that the United States was offered more of the company’s successful coronavirus vaccine as recently as November — but didn’t take the deal.
“There were multiple conversations with the U.S. government about taking more supply in the second quarter” of 2021, Gottlieb said. “The company wasn’t taken up on the offer as recently as November.”
The New York Times reported last week that Pfizer offered the Trump administration the chance to buy more than the 100 million doses agreed upon over the summer. In a baffling move, the Trump administration never made the deal.
Gottlieb, who was Trump’s FDA chief until April 2019, noted that the U.S. government said that the conversations with Pfizer happened in July, but that there was an offer for more vaccines on the table as recently as last month.
Gottlieb said other countries ended up taking those vaccines after the U.S. passed.
Another vaccine will soon be available from Moderna. The New York Times: Moderna Vaccine Is Highly Protective and Prevents Severe Covid-19, Data Show.
Newly released data confirmed on Tuesday that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is highly protective, setting the stage for its emergency authorization this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country.
The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize use of the vaccine on Friday, people familiar with the agency’s plans said. The decision would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as Monday.
The review by the F.D.A. confirms Moderna’s earlier assessment that its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent in a trial of 30,000 people. Side effects, including fever, headache and fatigue, were unpleasant but not dangerous, the agency found.
The success of Moderna’s vaccine has become all the more crucial to fighting the pandemic as other vaccine efforts have faltered. The hopeful news arrives at a time of record-breaking numbers of coronavirus cases that are overwhelming hospitals and of an ever-increasing death toll, which reached a bleak milestone of 300,000 on Monday.
Six million doses of the Moderna vaccine could begin distribution next week. Read more details at the NYT link.
Two more momentous events happened yesterday. Bill Barr is leaving and news broke of a new Russian hack of multiple U.S. government agencies.
Ruth Marcus on Bill Barr: Barr failed at his job. His bootlicking resignation letter made that clear.
After Trump’s disgraceful performance at the CDC yesterday, along with the pathetic sicophancy of the CDC director Robert Redfield, I’m beginning to get really frightened about growing spread coronavirus here in the U.S. Please watch this video of Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Now take a look at how the Trump administration is responding to the crisis. First, the CDC Director sucking up to the idiot in chief.
I know it’s hard to watch Trump, but please do watch these clips. He is getting more dangerous.
He is treating an epidemic like he did the Russia investigation–lying and covering up. He couldn’t care less how many people get sick and die; he just wants to keep the numbers down so he doesn’t look bad. He doesn’t seem to understand that this won’t work with a public health crisis.
This is quite literally insane, and yet the people around Trump are afraid to correct him or ask him to step back and let the experts handle the situation.
Retired General Barry McCaffrey doesn’t mince words.
Phillip Bump at The Washington Post: Which is Trump more worried about: Coronavirus numbers or coronavirus patients?
A comment President Trump made during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought into focus a unifying theory of his administration’s fumbling response to the growing spread of the coronavirus.
He was asked if passengers on a cruise ship anchored near San Francisco, some of whom have been exposed to the virus, should be brought ashore.
“From my standpoint, I want to rely on people. I have great experts, including our vice president who is working 24 hours a day on this stuff. They would like to have the people come off,” he said, wearing a baseball cap promoting his reelection campaign. “I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them. I told them to make the final decision.”
“I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump continued. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, okay? It wasn’t their fault either and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”
Trump can live with patients with coronavirus staying on a cruise ship with uninfected passengers. Whether those patients or future patients can live with that decision is entirely the point.
David Nakamura at The Washington Post: ‘Maybe I have a natural ability’: Trump plays medical expert on coronavirus by second-guessing the professionals.
President Trump likes to say that he fell into politics almost by accident, and on Friday, as he sought to calm a nation gripped with fears over coronavirus, he suggested he would have thrived in another profession — medical expert.
“I like this stuff. I really get it,” Trump boasted to reporters during a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he met with actual doctors and scientists who are feverishly scrambling to contain and combat the deadly illness. Citing a “great, super-genius uncle” who taught at MIT, Trump professed that it must run in the family genes.
“People are really surprised I understand this stuff,” he said. “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.” [….]
Sporting his trademark red 2020 campaign hat with the slogan “Keep America Great,” the president repeatedly second-guessed and waved off the actual medical professionals standing next to him. He attacked his Democratic rivals — including calling Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a “snake” for criticizing his response — and chided a CNN reporter for smiling and called her network “fake news.”
And he described coronavirus testing kits — which his administration has been criticized for being slow to distribute — as “beautiful” and said they were as “perfect” as his Ukraine phone call last summer that led him to be impeached.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Trump appears very worried about the U.S. economy, but he thinks he knows better than the experts about that too. John Harwood at CNN: Trump waves off economists’ prescriptions for preventing US coronavirus slowdown.
President Donald Trump sent a message Friday to anyone expecting major economic aid to head off a coronavirus recession: Don’t hold your breath.
With financial markets reeling, some economists back direct bailouts for affected workers and businesses to prevent a contraction of the already-slowing American economy. But as he signed the $8.3-billion emergency coronavirus spending bill passed by Congress — more than triple the amount the White House had requested — Trump waved off the idea of a new fiscal stimulus to protect America’s record-breaking economic expansion, again calling on the Federal Reserve to use its monetary policy tools.
“The Fed should cut and the Fed should stimulate,” Trump told me before leaving the White House to tour tornado damage in Tennessee. And he evinced little concern about the chance of recession anytime soon, declaring, “I think we’re in great shape.”
The President’s characteristically upbeat assessment does not match the darkening mood among business analysts as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the US and around the world. Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, now pegs the odds of recession this year at 50%.
Economic stimulus is going to be needed, but Trump thinks he knows better.
Offsetting the coronavirus threat would require a package in the range of $100 billion, Swonk says — comparable to what President George W. Bush and Congress enacted to combat the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Jason Furman, President Barack Obama’s former top economic adviser, has called for a $350 billion stimulus that would send $1,000 to every taxpaying US resident and $500 to each of their children.
Yet comments by Trump and his top economic aide made clear the White House does not currently back anything close to that scale.
“We’re not looking at these massive, federal, throw-money-at-people plans,” National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow told reporters. “We are looking at timely and targeted (efforts) where we can do the most good.”
With airlines already suffering from canceled flights, Kudlow cited “micro forms of assistance” that could help sectors including transportation, manufacturing, farming and small businesses. He offered no details.
What we need most of all is widespread testing, but the Trump administration doesn’t seem interested in letting that happen. It looks like they are just going to try to keep gaslighting us.
The New York Times: With Test Kits in Short Supply, Health Officials Sound Alarms.
President Trump claimed again on Friday that anyone who needed a coronavirus test “gets a test.” But from Washington State to Florida to New York, doctors and patients are clamoring for tests that they say are in woefully short supply, and their frustration is mounting alongside the growing number of cases around the country.
In California, where thousands are being monitored for the virus, only 516 tests had been conducted by the state as of Thursday. Washington health officials have more cases than they can currently process. And in New York, where cases have quadrupled this week, a New York City official pleaded for more test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The slow federal action on this matter has impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic,” the official said in a letter Friday.
More than 300 cases have been confirmed, at least 17 have died, and thousands are in self-quarantine. Public health officials are warning that no one knows how deeply the virus will spread, in part because the federal government’s flawed rollout of tests three weeks ago has snowballed into an embarrassing fiasco of national proportions.
The latest two deaths were announced late Friday night in Florida, marking the first time fatal cases were not on the West Coast.
In the last week, Mr. Trump and his top officials repeatedly promised that 1 million to 1.5 million tests would be sent around the country, even though labs — government and private ones alike — have struggled to get the tests running amid a growing number of infections and rising demand for tests. Despite an order Wednesday by the C.D.C. to greatly expand criteria for who can be tested, many hospitals and state health authorities continued to limit tests to those at the highest risk for infection, adding to the confusion and frustration, especially in hot spots like California and Washington.
On Saturday Jan. 11 — a month and a half before the first Covid-19 case not linked to travel was diagnosed in the United States — Chinese scientists posted the genome of the mysterious new virus, and within a week virologists in Berlin had produced the first diagnostic test for the disease.
Soon after, researchers in other nations rolled out their own tests, too, sometimes with different genetic targets. By the end of February, the World Health Organization had shipped tests to nearly 60 countries.
The United States was not among them.
Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration’s health agencies.
The slowness of the testing regimen — which, administration officials acknowledged this week, is still not producing enough tests to meet the national demand — was the first, and most sweeping, of many failures. So far there have been confirmed cases in at least 23 states, and at least 15 deaths, while the stock market plunged and an otherwise healthy economy braced for a major disruption.
But neither the CDC nor the coronavirus task force chaired by Vice President Mike Pence would say who made the decision to forgo the WHO test and instead begin a protracted process of producing an American test, one that got delayed by manufacturing problems, possible lab contamination and logistical delays.
I’ll end with this long piece at the Financial Times on the efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine: Coronavirus and the $2bn race to find a vaccine.
Juan Andres woke up three times during the night after putting his precious vials of vaccine on the back of a delivery lorry. In late February, Moderna, a biotech group based outside Boston, smashed the record for the fastest time between identifying a virus — in this case Covid-19 coronavirus — and creating a vaccine ready to test in humans: just 42 days.
In the lab, the team had been excited but in the early hours Mr Andres, a 30-year pharma veteran in charge of manufacturing, was nervously checking his phone to track the lorry carrying the potential vaccine to a discreet location. There the US National Institutes of Health would start the trial to test whether it works.
“The pride comes from this [being] a race,” he says. “Doing this as fast as possible is something that is a duty.” Once they were sure the vaccine had arrived safely, the team celebrated with ice cream. At least 100 Moderna staff worked on the project but Mr Andres says everyone is excited to be involved, even people’s families. “I can’t remember the last time my 15-year-old thought I did something cool,” he laughs.
Moderna is one of more than 20 companies and public sector organisations worldwide racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, which in little more than two months has exploded from a few people suffering from respiratory disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan to a near-pandemic with 95,000 cases and 3,300 deaths worldwide so far….
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations [see the first video in this post] — a partnership of governments, industry and charities, created three years ago to fight emerging diseases that threaten global health — is already sponsoring four Covid-19 vaccine projects, including Moderna’s. It is also on the point of signing contracts for four more, says Richard Hatchett, CEPI chief executive. He estimates that developing Covid-19 vaccines at the speed required will cost about $2bn over the next 12-18 months.
Moderna is off to the fastest start, Dr Hatchett believes, but several others are close behind. “We received 48 applications from all over the world following our call for proposals in February,” he adds. “There is a real sense of urgency . . . because the threat we are facing is unprecedented in the last 100 years in terms of its speed and potential severity,” he says, referring to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
That’s it for me. Sorry I’m so obsessed with coronavirus. Feel free to discuss any other topic in the comments! This is an open thread.